“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
Stick around here long enough and you might notice I’m one of those pesky straight-talkers. Thanks, no applause. So one of the things (of the many, many things) that irks me about academia (and, sometimes, real life) is the tendency to not say what you mean, and hardly ever mean what you say.
So the debacle with Miss USA is really getting on my nerves.
Here’s how it goes, in the event that somehow you missed the Miss USA pageant (shock! horror!).
Two finalists, separated by mere decimal points. One from North Carolina, one from California. Blonde. Smiling. SO American Beauty.
They arrive at the “let’s be serious and answer Questions of Great Importance” part of the pageant. One gets a question on whether the US taxpayer should be bailing out failing companies. Easy, right? Tell people what they want to hear. No, they shouldn’t. Big applause and cheers. Smile, retreat in a billow of gown.
The other (Miss California, ironically) gets the same-sex marriage question. Unfazed, she answers that she is happy that we have the ability to choose, but that personally, she’s against it.
AND. THE. CROWD. BOOS.
She beats a hasty retreat, calling “no offense to anyone! It’s just how I was raised!!” And Perez Hilton, whose existence makes me wonder if there’s a God, bows his head and shakes it, ever so slightly.
Guess who won?
Yeah. NOT the girl who expressed her honest opinion in the face of overwhelming social pressure. Nope. The one who demurred and told people what they wanted to hear.
Is this really what we want?
You could argue that Miss USA needs to be representative of the opinions of the people. You could argue that she should express only the majority position, and not have personal convictions which may or may not be in line with the masses.
I hope that my daughter is able, one day, to express her position with grace and candor. I hope that, even in the face of great social pressure, she’s able to defend her position, no matter how unpopular it may be, if it deviates from the expected. And I hope her models for this are educated, graceful women who, even when booed by the audience, can stand tall, unwilling to compromise, even if it means second place.
Even if it means Perez Hilton shakes his head.
Because inclusion is all fun and games till you give yourself up to the lions.